The first question Futurism’s Commerce team asks when considering what new items to cover is: “How are the products we’re choosing impacting the environment?” According to Google Trends, searches for the term “sustainable brands” went up nearly tenfold between 2018 and 2020. While we’re happy that many more people are beginning to consciously consider the resources required to make the gear they rely on, our interest in this ideal isn’t superficial; it’s a core part of what we do.
Unfortunately, not everything we recommend is made from renewable resources by companies that consider upgradability and recyclability from the moment a product is conceived. Despite this reality, we’re always looking for ways to highlight products and companies that are designing the next generation of technology — or anything else, for that matter — with the future of the planet in mind.
Below, we’ve outlined the ways we consider sustainability when choosing which products to test for our guides in greater depth. We’re constantly updating our methodology and raising our standards, so you can expect to see more and more sustainably made options in Futurism’s articles going forward.
Our general rule is to avoid recommending products that are made exclusively from non-renewable resources like single-use plastics, virgin timber, or similar elements. This is especially true when these materials are used exclusively for aesthetic purposes, and don’t improve the overall quality of how a product functions. This practice falls in line with our general ethos that function should be regarded more highly than form.
If possible, we try to find information on how a product is made to determine which natural resources are used during the manufacturing process. Many companies keep this data secret to keep an advantage over their competitors, but we conduct independent research to find as much information as possible. We’ve found that many companies who take sustainability seriously are more forthcoming than others.
Use of Renewable Resources
Our goal is to cover as many topics as possible, but we’ve prioritized product categories that allow you to reduce your personal carbon footprint, or begin to use renewable resources. Recent examples of this initiative include guides to the best solar chargers, the best solar panels, and the best solar batteries. Over time, we’ll continue to explore products that allow you to harness natural resources such as the sun and wind, and reduce the amount of water you waste.
Shipping and Packaging
The sad truth is that transporting goods from one place to another — especially from overseas — requires a lot of resources. This is true whether goods are shipped via freight ships or airplanes. Both forms of transportation require a lot of gasoline, and emit carbon dioxide. There are only a handful of major shipping companies that operate globally, so companies don’t have very many choices.
We’ll always mention whether a product is made in the U.S., which will reduce the amount it has to travel from the factory to your doorstep. In addition, we always make note of whether the products we receive for testing are made with sustainable materials.
In some cases, companies have greatly reduced (or completely eliminated) the amount of plastic they’ve used inside the box. We also make note of whether the product was shipped in a box that was substantially larger than necessary, and what packaging materials were used.
Recycling and Repairability
Inevitably, most products break after continuous use, and either need to be repaired or replaced and recycled. We always test the durability of the products we’re recommending — especially technology that’s purportedly rugged or waterproof — but life happens. If a company offers an in-house repair or replacement program, we’ll be sure to note that as part of our recommendation. We also look for companies who have an upgrade or trade-in program, which allows you to save money and room in the “junk drawer” that all gear sits in for far too long.
If the product in question can’t be repaired, upgraded, or traded in, we always look for responsible ways to recycle it. This could mean participating in a dedicated recycling program set up by an individual company, third-party, or big-box store. If there’s a piece of a gadget that can still be used — the hard drive of a computer, or charging cables — we’ll explain those options.
We’re proud of the independent evaluations and research we conduct when choosing products to feature in our guides, but we also value work done by larger organizations like Energy Star, Climate Partner, and Oeko-Tex whose sole purpose is to evaluate gear before it even hits store shelves. We also consider whether a company has made a formal pledge to make their operations more sustainable before a certain date.
For example, LEGO — a company whose entire business is based around producing and selling plastic bricks — has announced that it plans on making all of its core products out of sustainable materials by 2030. Aggressive pledges like that one don’t always come to fruition, but it’s good to see companies making more of an effort on the sustainability front.
Final Thoughts on Sustainability
These practices may not be perfect — and we’re always open to suggestions! — but we’re doing our best to uphold these sustainability principles in addition to our commitment to editorial excellence. As we mentioned earlier, we will continue to review and revise our processes as the definition of sustainability evolves.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.